'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

FOR HELIUM! A John Carter 2d20 adventure.

The air was still as the graceful airship slid over the horizon and slowed over the moss covered plains of Barsoom. The ship wasn’t as massive as one of the ships of war, only a small scout vessel, but it stlll proudly flew the colors of Helium. In moments, it settled softly on the ground and two of the Red Men of Helium emerged.

Standing on the plains of Barsoom the two scouts of Helium looked around nervously. They were waiting for a party of green men to rendezvous with them and they knew dealings with these savages could be deadly. However, the knowledge they had of places the Red Men did not go made the danger acceptable to Hor Zak.

Hor Zak, was commander of the scout mission and knew the knowledge of the Green Men could be had, for a price. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity they saw three of the Green Men approaching lazily on their thoats. The mounts and their riders steadily grew larger, as the scouts waited, until the scale of both the Green Men and thoats was impressive.

Finally reigning in beside the two Red Men, they dismounted. Their leader, towering over the scouts, came forward and offering the customary greeting said, ”Hor Zak. “

The scout nodded and returned the customary greeting, “Hortan Gur.”, and then turned to his companion, “Larok! Bring up the chest!”

“Yes, my Dwar!” was the man’s reply as he disappeared for a moment and brought back a small chest full of ornaments of gold and silver from their small ship.

The eyes of all three Green Men turned to look upon the ornaments, and after a brief discussion nodded to each other. The other two loaded the chest, mounted their thoats and waited for their leader to join them. Hortan Gur spoke, “This will do nicely Hor Zak, here is the map we spoke of at our last meeting. Know that my people will not take kindly to intrusion. Until we have further business. “

With the words spoken Hortan Gur, Green Man of Artol mounted his thoat, and his small party returned the way they came.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Some time Later ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You stand among your fellow brothers in arms in a vast auditorium deep within the walls of Helium. At the front of the hall stands the beautiful Deja Thoris, Princess of Helium. Her voice sounds clear and true, nearly musical, as she addresses the assembled throng, “Warriors of Helium! I seek volunteers to go to Artol in search of lost knowledge from the old civilizations. A work that could change Barsoom forever! “

Her words echo across the auditorium as a murmur passes over the assembled.

Her words continue, “I will not tell you it will be easy or that the way will not be perilous. The Green Men of Artol will not take kindly to our intrusion, and where they are not, there will almost certainly be the Great White Apes. Who among you will step forward and face the wilds of Barsoom? Who among you will sacrifice for your Princess? FOR BARSOOM!?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Game Details ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you are interested in playing, drop me a line. The current day is February 7th @ 6pm MST! Looking to stream via youtube!

Running on Fantasy Grounds and Discord with pre-generated soldiers of Helium.

Monday, January 29, 2018

John Carter of Mars: FG Extension

I've spent a little more time on the extension for John Carter of Mars. Now that we have the quick start and a basic feel for the rules I have begin adding die rollers and damage trackers into the extension. The image below shows the current iteration of the character sheet.


I need to re-work the frame graphics a little, as well as the title, but those don't really change functionality so I am concentrating on getting equipment and talents operational, as well as a dice selector so you can choose bonus dice when rolling checks.

As you can see I have die rollers added to the attributes column for cunning, and will add these to the remaining rows in the coming days.

There are a few automation things to work on as well, but they are nice to haves and some still need to be implemented on the Conan extensions as well.

If you have comments please drop them below, I would love to hear your feedback.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Conan 2d20 review. How clunky is it? A comparison with Pathfinder.

I have seen a lot of posts. People often read the Conan 2d20 rules and decide without playing them that they are too clunky. They have too many fiddly bits and they are just too slow.

But are they? Does Conan 2d20 present us with a system that is actually clunkier? I aim to answer this in this post by comparing a combat through multiple systems to see how they stack up.

For simplicity our encounter will start with a lone fighter, "Conal", breaking into a dark tomb to retrieve some long forgotten treasure. In an ancient tomb he is attacked by five skeletons.

Conan Zone Layout
Pathfinder Grid Layout

-- Conan 2d20 --

Conal
Agility: 13
Melee: Ex 5, Fc 5. TN 17/5
Coordination: 10
Parry: Ex 3, Fc 3. TN 13/3
Brawn: 12, +3cd
Fortune: 3
Broadsword: R2, 5cd, parrying
Shield: R2, 3cd, 1H, parrying, Shield 2
Armor = soak 2 everywhere.
Vigor: 13
Resolve: 10
Talents: No Mercy (equivalent 3 ranks): Re-roll xCDs

Skeletons (M)
Agility: 9
Combat: 2. TN 11/2
Pitted Sword: R2, 5cd, parrying
Armor: 2
Vigor: 5
Resolve: 8
Fear: 1

DOOM POOL: 3

Round 1

Conal
Conal goes first (Don't need to roll initiative in Conan, PCs always start unless interrupted by a GM doom spend)
Conal moves into a new zone(minor action)
Conal attacks the skeleton. (standard action)
Conal pays 3 doom into the pool and rolls 5d20. DOOM=6
Conal attacks and rolls 5d20 vs D1: 4,15,11,16,1 = 7 successes = 6 Momentum.
Conal rolls 8cd for damage: 5,2,3,4,3,2,3,5. Re-rolls 3 misses, rolls 3,4,4. tough luck. Damage = 6.
Conal spends 1 momentum for 2 points of soak ignored.
Conal does 6 vigor damage, causing a wound, destroying the skeleton.
Remaining momentum to the group pool. MOMENTUM=4
Conal approaches the first skeleton and raises his sword, striking the abomination. Although his sword blow is not devastating it slashes past a week spot in the skeletons ancient armor, through the torso reducing the bones to a broken and collapsed mess.

Skeletons
Skeletons form a mob.
The remaining 4 skeletons all move to engage Conal. They form a mob giving them extra attack dice.
Skeleton mob rolls 4d20+3d20 from doom. DOOM = 3
Conal attempts to parry and rolls 5d20, buying 3 dice with momentum. MOMENTUM=1
Skeletons attack and roll 8d20 vs D1: 6,11,16,11,14,15,4,18 = 4 successes = 3 momentum.
Conal parries and rolls 5d20 vs D1: 4,16,1,11,9 = 5 successes = 4 momentum.
Conal successfully parries the mob of skeletons. MOMENTUM=2
The shambling mob approaches Conal and with only the noise of metal on bone the 4 raise and slice at Conal, with a terrific effort Conal wards off the blows, feeling as if he has gained the upper hand on this undead horde.

Round 2

MOMENTUM reduces by 1.
MOMENTUM: 1
Conal
Conal pays 1 doom into the pool, uses 1 point of momentum and 1 fortune and rolls 5d20 against the mob of skeletons. DOOM = 4
Conal rolls 5d20 vs D1: 20,10,14,8,1 = 5 successes = 4 momentum. MOMENTUM=5. Complication. DOOM=6
Conal rolls 8cd for damage: 6,4,6,6,2,4,3,5. Re-rolls 3 misses, rolls 3,2,4. Damage=8.
Conal spends 2 momentum to increase damage to 10.
Conal spends 1 momentum for 2 points of soak ignored. MOMENTUM=2
Conal does 5 points of vigor to the first skeleton destroying it. 5 damage is carried to the next skeleton. 2 skeletons remain.
Taking advantage of the skeletons being pushed back by his parry, Conal swings a deadly arc of steal crashing through two of the skeletons reducing them to dust.
Conal spends 1 point of momentum and strikes at the remaining skeletons with his shield (Dual Wield, Swift action)
Conal kills 2 with a sword and 2 with his shield.
Conal spends 1 point on an extra die and 2 into the doom pool. DOOM=8
Conal rolls 5d20 vs D2 (D1 +1 for swift action): 11,17,1,19,14 = 5 successes = 3 momentum. MOMENTUM=4
Conal rolls 6cd for his shield. 1,3,4,3,3,5. Re-rolls 3 misses, rolls 2,3,2. Damage = 6.
Conal spends 4 Momentum to bring his damage to 5 and spends one point of doom to gain 2 points of soak being ignored.
Conal causes the other two skeletons 1 wound each.
As Conal's sword slices through two of the skeletons, he lashes out at the other two with his shield. With a terrific crash the impact reduces the remaining two skeletons do nothing more than a pile of bones and a slight haze of dust in the air

-- Pathfinder --


Conal
Fighter
Human Level 1
STR: 17 +3 (attack rolls, Damage rolls)
DEX: 14 +2 (Armor class, initiative)
CON: 14 +2
HP: 12
Longsword DMG: 1d8 Crit: 19–20/×2
Chainmail AC:+6 Max Dex Bonus:+2 ACP:–5 Spell Failure: 30% move: 20 ft.
Shield, light steel: AC:+1 ACP:–1 Spell Failure: 5%
Power attack, Cleave
AC: 10+6+1+2=19
MELEE ATTACK BONUS: 1+3=+4

Skeletons
AC: 16
Hp: 4
Speed 30'
broken scimitar +0 (1d6)
Base Attack = +0
FEATS Improved initiative (+4 initiative)

Round 1

Roll for Initiative
Rolled and sorter for order
Skeleton 5: 20+4 = 24
Skeleton 2: 17+4 = 21
Skeleton 4: 10+4 = 14
Skeleton 3: 9+4 = 13
Skeleton 1: 6+4 = 10
Conal: 4+2 = 6

Skeletons
Skeleton 5 moves to engage Conal and rolls a d20 for his attack. Rolls 15. Conal's AC = 19.
Skeletons move to attack.

Skeleton 2 moves forward 30'
Skeleton 4 moves and attacks Conal. Rolls a d20 and scores a 9. Not enough to beat Conal's AC.
Skeleton 3 moves up and attacks Conal as well. Skeleton 3 is opposite Skeleton 4 and so gains a +2 flanking bonus. Rolls it's 20. Gets an 8+2=10. Still fails to strike Conal.
Skeleton 1 moves forward 30'
The skeletons advance quicker than the undead should be able to. Three reach Conal with 2 close on their heals. Their sword swings are ineffectual, a combination of armor and dexterity cause all three to miss

Conal
Conal attacks Skeleton 4. Rolls his d20 and rolls 9. +4 = 13. Not enough to defeat the skeleton's AC.
Conal being pressed back by the horde of bones strikes wildly but fails to land an effective blow against the skeletons.

Round 2

Initiative
Skeleton 5
Skeleton 2
Skeleton 4
Skeleton 3
Skeleton 1
Conal

Skeletons
Remaining 2 skeletons close.  All attack and miss.
Skeleton 5 swings at Conal! Rolls a d20. 12. not good enough.
Skeleton 2 moves and attacks Conal. Rolls a d20. 12. Not enough.
Skeleton 4 attacks Conal. d20. 16+2 flanking = 18. Not enough.
Skeleton 3 swings. D20. 7+2 flanking, misses.
Skeleton 1 moves up and swings. 4...Misses.



Conal
Conal strikes at Skeleton 4 and rolling a d20, gets a 14+4=18! A HIT!
Conal rolls 1d8 for damage and gains a +3 from attributes. He rolls a 5+3=8! A skeleton falls!
Conal using cleave strikes at Skeleton 2! He rolls a d20 and scores a 15+4 = 19! Another hit
Conal rolls a 1d8 and scores a 2, but with his +3 it becomes a 5 and a second skeleton falls.
Conal slashes out at the skeleton beside him, his blade passing easily across the bones reducing it to dust, his deadly arc continuing in a devastating attack, striking down a second skeleton

Round 3

Initiative
Skeleton 5
Skeleton 3
Skeleton 1
Conal

Skeletons
Skeleton 5 swings out, this time enjoying a flanking bonus, and Conal is at a -2 for his AC from using Cleave.
The skeleton's D20 roll is a 16. +2 = 18, enough to hit Conal with his temporary AC of 17.
Skeleton 5 rolls a 1d6 for damage and scores a 5.
Skeleton 3 stikes next enjoying the same bonuses as his cohort. Rolls a 19. Also enough to strike Conal.
Skeleton 3 rolls a 1d6 for damage and scores a 6.
Conal has suffered 11 damage, leaving him a single hit point.
Skeleton 1 lashes out at Conal, rolling a 13 on a d20. Not enough to hit Conal, even with his -2 AC
Unbalanced by his massive attack two of the skeletons slice out with ancient steel, blood flows and Conal barely blocks the third blade from ending his life.

Conal
Conal swings at Skeleton 5. He rolls 6 on his d20, missing the Skeleton.
Conal staggers and ineffectually swings back at the undead seeking to have him join them.

Round 4

Initiative
Skeleton 5
Skeleton 3
Skeleton 1
Conal

Skeletons
Skeleton 5 rolls a 4, +2 flanking isn't enough to strike Conal.
Skeleton 3 swings and rolls a 17. +2 = 19. Enough to hit Conal.
Skeleton 3 rolls damage. and rolls a 2. Conal only had 1 HP left and so it reduced to -1 and dying.

-- Analysis --

Number of Rounds
Conan-2d20: 2
Pathfinder: 4
Verdict: Conan resolves combat faster.

Number of d20s
Conan-2d20: 22 in 4 rolls
Pathfinder: 16 in 16 rolls
Verdict: This depends on if you like dice pools. We roll more dice in Conan. We roll more often in Pathfinder. Time wise I suspect Conan will win here as I do not think each combat roll in Conan-2d20 will take 4x the time to resolve, and there are times it will be just as fast in my experience

Damage dice
Conan-2d20: I didn't count this. You roll A LOT of damage dice.
Pathfinder: Way less dice to resolve damage
Verdict: I am going to go with Pathfinder. It's simpler to roll a single die and things can be sped up by just rolling damage with your attack die. The upside for Conan-2d20 is with it's effects you can have a lot more interesting things to happen. More damage, grappling, stunning etc.

Narrative guidance
Conan-2d20: Each roll you make tells you what has occurred. How much you were successful by, if your weapon pierced armor etc.
Pathfinder: While providing some it is generally obscured by choosing a simpler resolution
Verdict: Conan, in my opinion provides the player and GM with more ideas about what is actually happening.

-- Final Thoughts --

I am not here to tell you which system is better. I simply wanted to compare two systems, one I feel is a popular game with a combat system people seem to enjoy, and the other a system that often gets a bad rap. The system in Conan reads poorly, but in actual play is a fun and interesting combat system. It is not without it's problems, but all games have some.

One of the interesting things about this comparison is seeing the hero die in Pathfinder, having this occur in Conan against enemies like this is practically unheard of. The system provides players with characters which are by all definitions, heroic.

If you have any comments, I would love to hear them!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Age of Conan: Saga of Zath

Age of Conan

Conan Exiles is approaching it's official release date. Over the last year it has gone from a game, from what I understand, significant issues, to a game that I quite enjoy. Sure it still has issues. I suspect all games do, but in the end I enjoy the survival sandbox concept with a Conan skin.

So Funcom is working hard on this new Conan game, but what of it's OTHER Conan game? Age of Conan.

If you are unfamiliar with it, Age of Conan was and *IS* a MMORPG set in the Hyborian Age. It was released WAY back in May 2008. Nearly 10 years ago. You start with a character in the Barachan Isles and the city of Tortage where you remain until you get to a high enough level and escape to the world at large. As it is 10 years old, there are less servers than there used to be. I believe only one remains. "CROM" in both PVP vs PVE. The game can be played for free giving you access to a lot of content or through a paid membership giving you certain bonuses and access to everything.

Through out your adventure you are given quests, gain experience and levels, new abilities, crafting recipes and your own guild strongholds.

Saga of Zath

Before Christmas Funcom announced that in the new year they were going to start a new server, something they called a SAGA server. We would all be given the opportunity to start fresh and play the game starting at Tortage. The original content would be in place as well as a new quest called "Saga of Kath". At the end of the saga server run, characters would be rolled back into CROM with all they had gained including marks of saga completion.

From the Saga of Zath website

The Saga Quest Shortly after washing ashore on Tortage Island, you are assigned a “Saga Quest” which tasks you with reaching various progression milestones:

  • Reach Level 20
  • Reach Level 50
  • Reach Level 80
  • Fulfill your Destiny
  • Complete a Raid via the Raid Finder*
  • Classic Raid Progression
Completing each stage of the quest awards a special vanity item or account-wide title exclusive to Saga of Zath, along with powerful loot including a Tier 4 Cloak and a Tier 6 Weapon and Necklace for your class!
* The Raid Finder will not be available at the start of Saga of Zath. Don’t worry--we’ll turn it on shortly after the launch.

January 24th saw the launch of the new Server and so I decided to return to Conan's MMORPG world and logged in last night at 8pm MST and made it to pretty close to level 12 in about 3 hours of solid game play, so I have about 8 levels to go to hit the first Zath quest goal. I hadn't played in about 2 years (Christmas 2016), but I quickly remembered the controls and got used to moving and killing.

I have never personally played a wizard class in the game, and have always stuck with combat. I love the way combate is handled, allowing you to swing at various locations and use combo moves, and get rewarded with fatality animations, such as beheading your opponent.

First Impressions

As I mentioned I played for 3 hours last night. I was able to find my way around fairly easily and remembered the basic maps and how to get to them. ie How to find my way around Tortage, How to get to the Underhalls and Whitesands.

Overall it was cool to see the game as populated as it was, even if that meant at times it was actually hard to find creatures to kill on Whitesands Island. ha ha.

As always the game is good looking, and has an amazing and epic soundtrack. It was commented from the other room while I was playing, "I wish Diablo 3 had an epic soundtrack like that." I often turn the music off in games, but in AoC, it is welcome and epic.

I will continue to play a little when I have time and see how far I get.

I will livestream my entire experience over on my YouTube channel, so come and check it out. SAGA OF ZATH

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Quickly! To Barsoom!

Today Modiphius released the quickstart rules for John Carter. We get our first taste of the system.

I wanted to jot down what I see as the major differences between Conan 2d20,as I am most familiar with this system, and the mechanics in the John Carter game.

Dice
The system is the same as Conan in this.
2d20+up to 3 bonus d20s
combat dice are calculated the same, 1,2,0,0,effect,effect.

Accomplishing Tasks
The Same
Roll 2d20, buy up to 3 extras.
Roll vs 2 numbers, get under the TN = 1 success, get under the lower value = 2 successes
Opposed tests work the same. Each side rolls, if both succeed, the side with the most momentum wins.
The Differences
Skills vs attributes
Conan uses Attributes+Skills. Skills have an Expertise and a focus and these plus the attribute provide the TN and Focus to roll against. Example: Melee attack: Agility=9, Melee Ex=4, Fc=4. Melee TN=13, Fc4.
John Carter uses attributes. Each test utilizes two of the attributes. Daring+Might for example. The sum of these is the TN and the lowest of these is the target to gain a second success. Example. Daring=5, Might=6. Daring+Might test: TN=11, FC=5

Momentum, etc.
The Same
You gain one momentum for every point above your target difficulty. Task is Difficulty 2, roll 3 successes, momentum = 1
You lose one momentum at the end of each scene
You can spend momentum for various effects
The Differences
No group pool. Players are allowed to save momentum past their turn, but it is stored in a momentum pool with a maximum equal to the players lowest attribute. Players may contribute to another players momentum pool, but it can't exceed it's maximum. Doom becomes Threat
Fortune becomes Luck

Zones
The Same
The world is broken into zone vs measuring squares. Distances are therefore abstractions.
The Differences
New names for the zones
Immediate - Within arms length. (Melee)
Near - not next to, but easily reachable. (Same zone)
Away - areas apart from others either due to distance or obstacles. (Adjacent zone)
Far - Visible range (2 zones over)
Too Far - Out of visible range, beyond the ability to engage without special tech.

Action Phases
The Same
Broken into rounds and turns. Each round is composed of player turns.
Players go first in initiative. GM can interrupt for the cost of 1 threat.
The Differences
Phases are simplified. Movement, Conflict, spoken.
Movement allows moving to any point within away. Moving further costs a momentum..
Conflict actions. Generally things that require tests.
Spoken actions. Simple quips and spoken commands.
Free actions. Not listed in the quickstart, but references are made to it.

Damage
The Same
Essentially broken into stress and harm. Harms are renamed as afflictions.
Having an affliction causes a penalty on the appropriate stat.
Reducing stress to 0 = 1 affliction.
Causing 5+ points of stress in a single attack = 1 affliction.
The Differences
One additional damage category. Confusion. It's Affliction is called "Madness"
When characters take damage they look at the two attributes used in their defend reaction and choose which stress track to take the damage on. Ex. A character parries with "Cunning" and "Daring", this brings the "Confusion" and "Injury" stress tracks into play and either can take the damage.
Blacking out instead of death at 5 wounds.
Optional note that an affliction can be caused at EACH 5 stress if the GM desires

What other differences have you noticed in the rules between the various 2d20 systems and this "lite" offering? Drop me a comment below and let me know!

John Carter FG Extension Update.

Although I have no screen shots I wanted to drop a quick update on progress. I spent part of last night working on templates to allow the construction of the attribute columns for the John Carter Character sheet. I showed the initial beginnings of the character sheet on a livestream last night.

I have about half of the "plus attributes" on the sheet, but need to make a modification on the code that does the calculations. Right now changing Cunning updates all of the "Cunning+Daring", "Cunning+Might", etc attributes, but does not update those plus attributes associated with the other main attributes. ie changing cunning does not update "Daring+Cunning".

It is a good start, and I'll work on the rest of the layout this week once I square that away. As I am trying to mimic the actual character sheet, this will take some time to make it as cool as it can be.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Happy Birthday to Robert E Howard.

On this day, January 22, in the year 1906 a man was born. This man, Robert E Howard, became one of the best known pulp authors of his, or any, time. He was published in numerous pulp magazines, selling many different stories, across numerous genres. Of course his most famous character is Conan, a barbarian from a forgotten time. Conan is the personification of the struggle of the barbaric man vs civilization.

Howard is credited as being the father of "Sword & Sorcery", and was a contemporary of HP Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. These three are often referred to when people speak of the three big writers of pulp fiction.

He was much more than simply the writer of Conan. Howard was a man that loved history and tried to work it into his stories whenever he could. Many of his yarns take place around historical events, where he tells the stories of people intertwined with them. His writing and characters were expansive ranging from King Kull of Atlantis, through to his modern age. Many of his stories speak of everyone living in a connected universe. Kull to Conan, Kull to Brank Mak Morn. Conan to the modern age.

Kull, Solomon Kane, Conan, Breckenrdige Elkins, El Borak, Sailor Steve Costigan, Brank Mak Morn, Dark Agnes and the list goes on. Many of his characters and stories have been adapted to the television and movie screen to varying degrees of success.

Both a man of his time and a man ahead of his time, he has influenced many people and many elements of fantasy.

Today I raise my glass in salute to a great writer.